Do you prefer e-books or print books?

20:05, Oct 08 2012

E-books vs print books - ahh, the eternal question of "which do you prefer?"

Until the beginning of this year, I was a very traditional print book girl. I wanted loads and loads of beautiful, neatly typographed paper, seductively bound between covers. I loved the thrill of going up to my bookshelf and tracing my finger over the spines, trying to decide which stories I wanted to bring to bed with me for a bit of night-time pre-snooze reading.

Then I got a Kindle.

It was actually a practical decision. I knew that I was taking the year off to write my novel, and would have far less cash to burn on my reading addiction. E-books were cheap, with most just under $5. And they took up no room at all. So I sacrificed my paper fetish for value and pragmatism. 

What I found was that while nothing yet beats the feeling of cracking the spine of a new tome, e-books are surprisingly addictive. Because they are so cheap, it also makes you more willing to take a chance on an unknown author. The first few weeks after I got my Kindle, I went on a bit of a bender at Amazon - buying up dozens of copies of $.99 and $1.99 books.

Most were pretty crap, but I did find a few gems that I might not have risked if I'd had to shell out $20 each for them.


One was a short novel (almost a novella), by an author called Nick Cole, titled The Old Man and the Wasteland, a beautifully soulful story about the survivor of a nuclear holocaust who journeys into the unknown, armed with his copy of Ernest Hemingway's classic The Old Man and the Sea.

Another was a science-fiction novel called Half Way Home, by Hugh Howey, about a group of young people who have been sent out into space to colonise a planet, only to wake up 15 years earlier than anticipated due to a fire that killed most of them onboard the ship.

The third is a novel called Zomblog, by TW Brown, a fun little ride through a zombie apocalypse through the eyes of Samuel Todd, a regular joe who finds himself in the middle of a waking nightmare.

To be honest, I probably wouldn't have been willing to pay the print price for any of these books. But therein lies the beauty of e-books: because there are no overheads involved, you can often get decent quality reads for peanuts. I even bought a new Margaret Atwood short story called I'm Starved for You for $2.99 - a total bargain which I would have been willing to pay more for at the shops.

I know quite a few Kiwi authors who are going the e-publishing route and while that's a topic for another post, I think that e-books are wonderful for more adventurous readers.

While I'll always prefer print books for my favourite authors and novels, I've been enjoying using my Kindle as a sort of litmus test to see if I like a story enough to shell out money for the print version someday. E-books are also awesome for travellers, but word of caution: make sure that the places you are going to can support the technology required to run an e-reader.

This is a bit like the question about fashion. There are clothes that you wear for every day: sundresses, pencil skirts, jeans, T-shirts, work blazers and so on; then there are the ones you save for very special occasions. Print books are like the LBDs (little black dresses) of the literary world, and e-books are more your jeans-and-tee combo. Each has its own niche with the reader, and we shouldn't ever have to choose one over the other.

What do you think? Do you prefer e-books or print books and why?

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